Luke Rowlinson

Western Reserve's Luke Rowlinson drives against Crestview's Austin Wells during the Division III district semifinals Thursday at Shelby High School.

SHELBY — It took Western Reserve little time to take control.

The second-seeded Roughriders and No. 5 Crestview traded body blows for the opening six-plus minutes of Thursday’s Division III district semifinal game at Shelby before Western dropped the hammer in an 87-53 victory, its third of the season over its Firelands Conference rival.

The Cougars (17-8) trailed 18-16 after a pair of free throws by Crestview’s Evan Hamilton with 1:49 remaining in the opening quarter when the Roughriders (19-2) suddenly came to life. Luke Rowlinson connected on a 3-pointer with 1:42 to play in the period, igniting a lightning-quick 9-2 run to close out the quarter. By the time the dust settled, Western Reserve led 27-18 after one.

“That’s how it’s been for us with them in basically all three games,”Crestview coach John Kurtz said. “They hit a spot where we just can’t offensively compete. That’s where we were tonight.”

Rowlinson connected on five first-half 3-pointers. The 6-foot-4 senior scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the first half.

“When Rowlinson starts off that hot, it just torches what we want to try to do,” Kurtz said. “He’s a really good player and that’s a really good team.”

Crestview trailed 54-29 at the half, but cut it to 62-42 on an Evan Gibbs’ 3-pointer with 4:15 to play in the third. Western responded with an 11-0 run to close the quarter and took a 73-42 lead to the fourth.

“For us to get in a rhythm early in a tournament game, it calms your nerves,” Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon said. “When we make shots, we’re able to make it a full court game.

“We know they’re good, but the prior two games they haven’t been able to maintain that pace for 32 minutes.”

John Skrada backed Rowlinson with 21 points. Jacob Jarrett added 15.

Gibbs led the Cougars with 14 points. Heath Kash added 10.

Crestview was making its first district tournament appearance since 2011, the last year of Kurtz’s first tenure with the Cougars. The 17 wins match the 2010-11 team.

“We won 17 ball games and won a sectional title,” Kurtz said. “You have to be proud of the accomplishments these kids have made.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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